Maine’s Back 40 Adventures: Uber For Outdoor Enthusiasts

It's like Uber, but for outdoor adventures.

A new business in Maine connects adventure seekers with expert guides, giving tourists the ability to "rent" a host for an outdoor adventure off the beaten path.

"There are a handful of places in Maine that people know, but there's more to Maine," said Back 40 Adventures co-founder Henry Gilbert. "Our goal is to foster connections between adventure seekers and guides."

On their website, adventure seekers can browse outdoor excursions like rock climbing, mountain biking, Tenkara fly-fishing, outdoor yoga — even gold prospecting.

"You see these really interesting adventures coming out of the woodworks," said Gilbert.

The user can view a prospective itinerary and map, and learn more about the guide's background before booking.

Gilbert said with the exception of photography guides, all the hosts on Back 40 Adventures are Registered Maine Guides. To be one, a guide must demonstrate navigational skills, have first-aid certification, and pass a series of tests through the state of Maine.

"We are tapping into this market of professional guides who already exist," said Gilbert.

In some cases, the professional Registered Maine Guides may live in rural areas, and not know how to market themselves online to attract more business. Back 40 Adventures helps them connect with adventure seekers, looking to try new things.

Gilbert said sharing-economy businesses like Uber and Airbnb demonstrated that his business model is viable. But he does point out that Back 40 Adventures isn’t exactly like Lyft and the like. In his business, people have the control over their guide. “It’s not just whoever shows up,” he said.

Dan Pierce is one of the guides on Back 40 Adventure's site. He is a Maine Tenkara Guide and teaches people the Japanese-style fly fishing technique.

"It's pretty easy to teach," he said. Tenkara requires simple fishing equipment: a rod and line, and the willingness to wade through the water.

"If you have a person who can show you the knots and the show you the casting stroke, you can pick it up real quick," he said. Pierce has already taken one person Tenkara fishing through Back 40 Adventure's site.

Another guide is Leah Titcomb. Through her business Forever Wild Yoga, she offers outdoor yoga adventures and retreats.

"If you haven't experienced yoga outside, you have to come try it," she said. She takes groups hiking, canoeing, and even lobstering — and finds ways to integrate yoga into the adventure. She is based out of Brunswick, but goes as far away as the Allagash on her trips.

"There's so many things to do here outside," she said. "Sometimes it can be hard, as a visitor, to come to a new place and figure out where to go. This is giving people access to find off-the-beaten-path places."

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